Facebook Faces Click Fraud

 

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg

In a  recent post on its company page, Limited Run—a New York company that offers  website solutions to artists and musicians—claimed 80% of the clicks from its Facebookads were  from bots.

Limited Run said it could only verify 15-20% of the clicks on its site  through a host of standard analytic solutions, which led to it building its own  custom software for tracking.

The company explains:

Unfortunately, while testing their ad system,  we noticed some very strange things. Facebook was charging us for clicks, yet we  could only verify about 20% of them actually showing up on our site. At first,  we thought it was our analytics service. We tried signing up for a handful of  other big name companies, and still, we couldn’t verify more than 15-20% of  clicks. So we did what any good developers would do. We built our own analytic  software. Here’s what we found: on about 80% of the clicks Facebook was charging  us for, JavaScript wasn’t on. And if the person clicking the ad doesn’t have  JavaScript, it’s very difficult for an analytics service to verify the click.  What’s important here is that in all of our years of experience, only about 1-2%  of people coming to us have JavaScript disabled, not 80% like these clicks  coming from Facebook. So we did what any good developers would do. We built a  page logger. Any time a page was loaded, we’d keep track of it. You know what we  found? The 80% of clicks we were paying for were from bots.

Limited Run claims they contacted Facebook, who “wouldn’t  reply.”

Facebook declined to respond immediately on this issue when reached by  BI.

In an e-mail, Tom Mango, co-founder of Limited Run, explained further:

Technically speaking, we used about 6  different analytics services as well as built our own analytics system to try  and confirm the ad click throughs from Facebook. The way client side analytics  works is that it will try and load some JavaScript on the page and, if that  doesn’t work, it just loads a single image. On about 80% of the incoming page  requests from our ad campaigns, neither the JavaScript or the images were being  loaded. Normal web browsers, used by normal people, will load both JavaScript  and images. However, bots, such as ones that crawl the web or bots that attempt  to hack into websites to leave spam comments on blogs, don’t usually load those  extra things like JavaScript and images. This is how we came to the conclusion  that the majority of the click throughs we were getting were from bots. We have  no idea who the bots are run by and don’t think Facebook has anything to do with  it.

As it turns out, this issue—while not everyday news—is not new for Facebook.  In June of 2009, complaints arose regarding discrepancy in ad clicks versus what  clients could verify. Facebook verified  a discrepancy and claimed to be implementing appropriate changes.

A month later, RooZoo  and Unified  ECM filed lawsuits alleging fraud. In April of this past year, the two  companies along with others were denied  certification for a class action suit in a District Court in California.

The final straw for Limited Run came unrelated to the click issue, it was  regarding changing the name on its company page:

While we were testing Facebook ads, we were  also trying to get Facebook to let us change our name, because we’re not Limited  Pressing anymore. We contacted them on many occasions about this. Finally, we  got a call from someone at Facebook. They said they would allow us to change our  name. NICE! But only if we agreed to spend $2000 or more in advertising a month.  That’s correct. Facebook was holding our name hostage

In regards to that specific issue, Facebook gave us the following  statement:

We’re currently investigating Limited Run’s  claims. For their issue with the Page name change, there seems to be some sort  of miscommunication. We do not charge Pages to have their names changed. Our  team is reaching out about this now.

Unlike others, Limited Run isn’t accusing Facebook of fraud. The company told  TechCrunch it could have been a competitor attempting to sabotage the firm  through increased ad costs. Nonetheless, Facebook admits it might have as  many as 50 million fake users.

Mango reiterated that it wasn’t the clicks that led Limited Run to leave  Facebook, it was the customer service. While he acknowledges Limited Run is  smaller than a lot of Facebook’s clients, it raises questions over how  widespread the problem might be, even if it’s not widely reported. At a time  when effectiveness of the social network’s ads are constant debate—this surely  doesn’t help.

This post was written by Charlie Minato and the orginal article can be found at Business Insider.

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